One of the top playmaking wingers in Flyers history, Jakub Voracek recently announced his retirement at age 34. Voracek ranks 10th in franchise history with 604 points in 727 regular season games in a Flyers uniform. He ranks fifth in assists (427) and eighth in power play points (209, one fewer than Flyers Hall of Fame center Rick MacLeish).

The Czech winger is the top European-born scorer in team history, eclipsing the distinction previously held by Pelle Eklund (452 points in 589 games). Voracek's career-best scoring season came in 2017-18, when he posted 85 points while dressing in all 82 games.

Overall for his NHL career, Voracek played 1,058 games (223 goals, 583 assists, 808 penalty minutes) and 49 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs (9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points).  

As a Flyer, Voracek twice won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP (2012-13 and 2014-15). He won the Pelle Lindbergh Trophy in his second season with the club (2012-13), as his teammates voted him the club's most improved player. He won the Yanick Dupre Memorial (Class Guy) award in 2013-14 from the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the Gene Hart Award (heart, work ethic and dedication) from the Flyers Fan Club in 2014-15. He also represented the Flyers in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.

Voracek's Philadelphia years were mostly happy and productive, although the team itself saw a lot of personnel changes and rollercoaster outcomes. He became a fan favorite for his fun-loving personality, willingness to speak his mind, and the skill he brought on the ice. In the locker room, he forged an array of close and enduring friendships that will last long beyond players' individual careers. Philadelphia became a second home to the Czech native.

Kladno to the NHL

Born on August 15, 1989, in the industrial city of Kladno, Czechia, Voracek was born just three months before the Velvet Revolution, which saw the non-violent fall of communism in the former Czechoslovakia. 

Kladno is a traditional hockey hotbed, best known as the birthplace of hockey legend Jaromir Jagr. Even apart from Jagr, the city has a century-long history of producing top hockey talent. The club now known as the Kladno Knights (Rytiri Kladno) traces its history back to the formation of the HOSK Kladno team back in 1924.

Growing up in Kladno, like most young aspiring players, Voracek idolized Jagr and dreamed of eventually playing in the NHL. He also admired the HC Kladno line of Pavel Patera, Martin Prochazka and Otakar Vejvoda. Nicknamed "the Blue Line", the trio was considered one of the most dominant lines in Europe. Two of the three members (Patera and Prochazka) later appeared in the NHL.

As with hockey programs across Europe, Kladno operated a junior development program, with the top young players eventually working their way up to the senior team at the professional level. By age 14, Voracek made his debut on Kladno's under-18 squad. At age 16, clearly too advanced for the under-18 team (62 points in 30 games), he was promoted to the under-20 team. The next year, Voracek even appeared in a game with the men's team.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was an exodus of top junior-aged talents from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the CHL (OHL, QMJHL, WHL) in Canada. Players came overseas hoping to get a jump on playing the North American style, improve their English, and boost their stock in the NHL Entry Draft.

In 2006-07, shortly after his 17th birthday, Voracek joined the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads. He enjoyed strong success, emerging as a top prospect for the 2007 NHL Draft. Statistically, Voracek posted 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in the regular season plus 24 points in the QMJHL playoffs. He also represented his home country in both the Under-18 World Championships and the World Junior Championships.

The Flyers held the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. According to Flyers Hall of Famer Paul Holmgren, who served at the time as Philadelphia's general manager, the Flyers had Voracek ranked highly in their internal rankings. 

The Flyers considered a trade with the Edmonton Oilers (who held the sixth, 15th, and 21st overall picks), wherein the Flyers would flip the second overall selection for Edmonton's picks. The Oilers were willing to trade picks seven and 21, but balked at dealing all three of their first-round selections to move up five spots. If the trade had gone down, the Flyers would have taken Voracek. Philly was also targeting Minnesota high school defenseman Ryan McDonagh -- who ended up going 12th overall to Montreal -- if they'd been able to get the 15th pick.

The Flyers stood pat. They selected USNTDP left winger James van Riemsdyk with the second overall pick. Edmonton chose London Knights (OHL) forward Sam Gagner with the sixth pick. The Columbus Blue Jackets chose Voracek with the seventh overall pick.

Becoming an alternate captain for the Mooseheads, Voracek racked up 101 points in 53 games in his second and final QMJHL season. He posted a half-dozen assists in six games for the Czechs at the World Junior Championships.

Voracek spent the first three seasons of his NHL career in Columbus, showing promise as a big-framed winger who was also highly skilled. 

Blockbuster trade to Philadelphia

June 23, 2011, was the day before the 2011 Entry Draft. The Flyers made three blockbuster roster moves on that day. 

First, they acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzalov from the Coyotes. Later, they made two major trades. The team sent captain Mike Richards to the LA Kings for highly touted center prospect Brayden Schenn, young power forward Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second-round pick (later traded to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Nicklas Grossmann). Minutes later, the Flyers dealt Jeff Carter to Columbus in exchange for Voracek, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 Draft (Sean Couturier) and a 2011 third-round pick (Nick Cousins).

Voracek made an impact (18 goals, 31 assists, 49 points) in his first season with the Flyers, although he primarily played on the third line -- along with rookie forward Matt Read and either Max Talbot or Couturier -- and second power play unit. Signed by the Flyers before the season, Jagr played on the top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. In the latter portion of the season, with Jagr dealing with groin issues, Voracek moved up in the lineup more frequently. 

The Flyers posted 103 points in the regular season. Nevertheless, they entered the first round of the playoffs as a heavy underdog to the Pittsburgh Penguins (108 points), In Game 1 of what turned out to be a high-scoring, fight-filled series, the Flyers recovered from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime. At 2:23 of sudden death, Voracek scored the game-winning goal. 

The Flyers defeated the Penguins in six games before being upset in five games by the New Jersey Devils in the second round. During a tumultuous offseason -- most remembered for the Flyers' signing star Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a lucrative offer sheet only for Nashville to find a way to match -- the Flyers planned an expanded role for Voracek. Jagr departed as a free agent, which left an upper-lineup spot wide open for Voracek to seize.

Voracek's NHL breakout 

The 2012-13 season, shortened to 48 games due a three-and-a-half month lockout, was a disappointing and injury-riddled season for Philadelphia. On an individual level, however, Voracek thrived in his new role as the team's first-line right wing and a top power play unit staple (46 points in 48 games). 

The 2013-14 campaign saw the Flyers get off to a very slow start -- which cost Peter Laviolette his head coach job and saw the ascent of Craig Berube from assistant coach to head coach. The Flyers caught fire in mid-November and went on to finish third in the Metropolitan Division. 

That season, Giroux was a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Linemate Voracek posted a career-high 23 goals (the second of his six seasons in Philly with 20 or more goals) and 39 assists. The Flyers lost in seven games to Alain Vigneault's New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. Voracek had a pair of goals and four points in the playoff series. New York won all the odd-numbered games (including a 2-1 decision in Game 7), while Philly prevailed in the even-numbered matches.

The winds of change blew through Philadelphia again in the summer of 2014. Ron Hextall became the Flyers' new general manager, pledging to prioritize a farm system restock as his No. 1 priority while keeping enough of the nucleus in place -- namely, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds and Couturier-- to at least keep the team competitive enough to battle for a playoff spot. 

The Flyers fell into a pattern of missing the playoffs one year and making the postseason (but being unable to advance past the first round) the next. Berube stayed in place for the 2014-15 season but was replaced thereafter by longtime University of North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol.

Individually, Voracek competed throughout the 2014-15 for the Art Ross Trophy. He ultimately posted 81 points to tie with Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin for fourth in the NHL scoring race. Voracek's 59 assists were three more than Pittsburgh icon Sidney Crosby posted and one fewer than league leader Nicklas Bäckström generated for Washington.

Voracek had one season remaining on his contract. However, the Flyers rewarded the player with an eight-year ($8.25 million AAV) extension on July 30, 2015. The new deal kicked in for the 2016-17 season and ran through the 2023-24 campaign.

Flyers mainstay

In Hakstol's first season behind the bench, the Flyers returned to the playoffs on the strength of a 96-point season, Voracek slumped in terms of goal scoring (11 goals) but still generated 44 assists. The Flyers lost in six games to Washington in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.  Franchise co-founder and longtime chairman Ed Snider passed away shortly before the start of the playoff series against the Capitals.

The 2016-17 season was the Flyers Golden Anniversary: the club's 50th campaign in the National Hockey League. The Flyers fell out of the playoff chase early in the stretch drive. Individually, Voracek posted a 61-point season (20 goals, 41 assists).

The Flyers rebounded for a 98-point season in 2017-18. Giroux had an MVP-caliber season (including a career-best 102 points) and Couturier (31 goals, 76 points) was a finalist for the Selke Trophy. The top line's right winger, Voracek, generated 20 goals and a career-best 65 assists. Philly lost to Pittsburgh in six games in the first round of the playoffs.

During the 2018 offseason, the Flyers brought back van Riemsdyk (who'd been traded to Toronto in the summer of 2012 for defenseman Luke Schenn). There were heightened expectations for a potential return to a 100-plus point season and possible advancement beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Instead, the 2018-19 season proved to be a rough season by almost every measure.  Problematic goaltending  -- exacerbated by injuries to both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth and an unsuccessful stopgap acquisition of Cal Pickard -- led to a goaltending carousel that saw a team-record eight different netminders play in at least one game for Philadelphia. Ahead of schedule, the Flyers recalled 20-year-old rookie Carter Hart after just 18 games at the American Hockey League level.

Additionally, neither Hextall nor Hakstol made it to midseason as the general manager and the head coach. The Flyers hired former Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher as the new GM, while Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach was moved up to the parent team as the Flyers' interim head coach for the remainder of 2018-19.

Apart from the emergence of young winger Travis Konecny (24 goals) and second-half promise shown by Oskar Lindblom, not much else went right for the Flyers offensively beyond the presence of their top-line trio of Giroux (85 points), Couturier (33 goals, 76 points) and Voracek (20 goals, 46 points). Simmonds departed in a trade deadline deal to Nashville.

Perhaps the main highlight of the 2018-19 season for the Flyers came on February 23, 2019, as the Flyers staged a two-goal comeback in the third period and went on to earn an overtime victory over the archrival Penguins at the Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field. Amid a pouring rain, Voracek forced OT with a goal at 19:40 of the third period. Giroux scored the game-winner in sudden death.

Team resurgence -- until the pandemic

In the summer of 2019, the Flyers hired Alain Vigneault as the new head coach. Although AV sometimes ruffled some feathers among the the players in the dressing room, the team got dramatic results -- posting the league's best record in November and then going on a scorching hot run from early January to the abrupt suspension of the season in March due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

That season, in addition to posting arguably the best two-way season of his Flyers career, Voracek also contributed 56 points (12 goals, 44 assists) in 69 regular season games. The remainder of the regular season was eventually canceled but the Stanley Cup playoffs -- with the Eastern Conference clubs playing every game in Toronto -- in a pandemic-driven "bubble".

The Flyers ended up reaching Game 7 of the  Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Islanders. However, Philly never truly regained their pre-stoppage form to the same level. Philly also seemingly altered aspects of their systems after regrouping in Toronto. Voracek individually posted nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 playoff games. 

With the Covid pandemic still ongoing, the 2020-21 NHL season did not get underway until January 2021. Early on, the Flyers scoring goals at a prolific pace -- outscoring their own abundant breakdowns -- but they hit a wall after the first month. The team's fortunes sank. In what proved to be his final season as a Flyer, Voracek had 43 points (nine goals, 34 assists) in 53 games played. 

After the season, amid an attempt by the Flyers to re-engineer an offseason similar to the one before the 2019-20 campaign, Voracek and the Flyers agreed the time had come to part ways. On July 24, 2021, the Flyers dealt Voracek to Columbus in a one-for-one trade for Cam Atkinson.

Final NHL seasons 

By the time Voracek returned to Columbus, he was 32 years old. His fundamental personality hadn't changed much but nearly the entire Columbus organization itself was different from the one he left in the summer of 2011. Meanwhile, he'd been through so many life experiences on and off the ice that it felt more like a turning of the page than a homecoming.

Voracek remained an outstanding playmaker. He compiled 56 assists among the 79 points he posted in 79 games during the 2021-22 season. Unfortunately, an early season concussion the next season produced lingering post-concussion effects that precluded a safe resumption of his NHL career. He played in just 11 games.

On March 22, 2023, the Blue Jackets traded Voracek's contract to the Coyotes along with a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. He spent the entire 2023-24 campaign -- the final year of the contract he signed with Philly back in the summer of 2015-- on IR as a member of the Coyotes organization.

Voracek will always be most remembered for his years in Philadelphia, where he became better known as "Jake" than as Jakub. His friendships will endure with the likes of Giroux, Simmonds, Michael Raffl, Couturier, Scott Laughton and more. He also made a mark through his involvement in the community and the strong rapport he had with young fans.  

Voracek's shoot-from-the-hip candor and impish sense of humor produced legions of stories among both his teammates and people around the team. When he agreed with you, he'd nod vigorously and say "100 percent!" If he disagreed, he'd tell you in no uncertain terms why. 

Earlier this season, when the Flyers played in the 2024 Stadium Series game against the New Jersey Devils at MetLife Stadium, Voracek was onhand. Not only did he greet former teammates and old friends, he also went over one-by-one to the media members he'd gotten to know over the year on a first-name basis.